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Freeman Dyson, A Brilliant Scientist Who is an Unabashed Optimist About Biotechnology Research - Part II

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Freeman Dyson is the British mathematical physicist who famously drove cross-country from New York to California with Richard Feynman in the late 1950's and helped him work out the mathematics enabling him to formalize the path integral formulation of quantum mechanics, for which Feynman shared the Nobel Prize with Sin-Itiro Tomonaga and Julian Schwinger in 1965.


Freeman Dyson in 2005,
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This article is in two parts. To read the first part, click here. Both parts are based on Dyson's most recent popular book, A Many-Colored Glass. And both parts quote extensively from the book, published by the University of Virginia Press, copyright 2007. The title of the book is taken from two lines in the poem "Adonais" by Percy Bysshe Shelly:

Life, like a dome of many-colored glass,/

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Stains the white radiance of eternity.

The subject of the book, broadly, is conveyed by its subtitle: "Reflections on the Place of Life in the Universe."

The second Chapter of the book is titled, "A Debate with Bill Joy," and except for some very small ("nano") changes, it follows in its entirety.

"Invitation to the Magic Mountain

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Biotechnology is likely to be the main driving force of change in human affairs for the next hundred years. I am an unashamed optimist, and I see the promise of good arising from biotechnology greatly outweighing the dangers of evil. But I am well aware that everyone does not agree with me about this. I try to keep the discussion balanced, with the pessimists having their say. The subject of this chapter is a debate between Bill Joy and me. Bill Joy is a thoughtful entrepreneur who made a fortune in the computer industry and is now arguing that people like himself are too dangerous to be allowed. He makes a strong case for restraint of new technologies, and I try to refute him. Whether you agree with him or with me, I hope you will find our debate illuminating.

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I have a law degree (Stanford, 66') but have never practiced. Instead, from 1967 through 1977, I tried to contribute to the revolution in America. As unsuccessful as everyone else over that decade, in 1978 I went to work for the U.S. Forest (more...)
 

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